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Towle fund managers invest own money and prosper

One of the best mutual fund performances over the last year was turned in by a father-son team with their own money on the line.

Approximately 40 percent of the assets invested in the $41.7 million Towle Deep Value Fund can be traced to managers Woody Towle, his son Christopher Towle and the employees of their St. Louis-based firm.

The Towles' bets on themselves are significant in an industry in which fund managers are not required to invest in their own products, and they - and their outside investors - have been handsomely rewarded. The go-anywhere equity fund is up 56.7 percent for the year through Oct. 25, or about 30 percentage points more than the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, and is in the top one percent of its peers, according to Morningstar.

That outsized performance was due in large part to well-timed moves into Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co, freight transporter Arkansas Best Corporation, and grocer Supervalu Inc, all of which are up over 60 percent over the last twelve months. Lately, the fund has been moving into small-cap energy stocks like Cloud Peak Energy Inc and PBF Energy.

Investors could consider the Towles' personal stake in their go-anywhere stock fund a good long-term sign. Funds in which at least one manager has invested $1 million or more have returned an average of 9.1 percent a year over the last five years, according to Morningstar data, compared with a 6.5 percent annualized return for funds that had no manager assets invested. In all, approximately 49 percent of funds have at least one manager with their own money in the fund.

Source: Reuters